In my opinion cemeteries are architectonic. They are mirroring the region’s specific mastership of arts, beliefs, religion or superstitions, the way that people communicate with each other in their lives.
Every country has its special, more famous cemeteries. For example in my city, Bucharest, the Bellu Cemetery is hosting the after life of well known personalities, especially those creative in the cultural field. If you follow this link you can find images of different funeral monuments erected in this cemetery and other historical facts. (Link)
It has become a site with visitors.
Other famous cemeteries, tourist attractions, are The Merry Cemetery in the far North of Romania (Link) or the old German Sighişoara cemetery (Link). I visited both of them and I was really impressed but I don’t want you to think that I am making tourist propaganda on my blog!
I want to speak about the small, unattractive cemetery in the village of my grandparents where I spent a part of my childhood. Although the village is located in the South of Transylvania, I found there that grave crosses have something in common in their shape with the crosses in The Merry Cemetery for example. My mother was born in that village and now all my matrilineal ancestors lie in that cemetery, their eternal beds are scattered all around that small cemetery. Along with my mother I visited that graveyard many times, walking from cross to cross in search of old tomb stones related to our family history. That village had a prosperous age once but now it is almost deserted because the younger generations left to find their fortunes in other places when times were harsh. In fact the village was not blessed with fertile soil, the food and the income of peasants there came from raising sheep or cattle, but it was not situated on a good commercial route. In the last decades a dam was built there over the river.
Like this, isolated from modernization, the village preserved for many years ancient rituals (specific church habits, folklore, traditional costumes, traditional processing of wool, „ecological” farms with wooden horse wagons or different other wooden tools, from spindle and loom to hand made forks or scythes). Breathing pure, unaltered air for decades, working hard all day with their hands, fed by fresh milk or natural products, people there were usually longeval, most of them becoming octogenarians. The same happened with my ancestors, with a few exceptions.
Strolling in the old cemetery, where very old crosses are invaded by grasses, I found for example the grave of one of my great-great-grandfathers, who died age 100, almost 101. What does it mean to be alive over a century? To be part of the changing tides of time for so long? That man was photographed casting his vote for a newspaper, not long before his death, because the authorities of those times thought it can be a good voting promotion to see a man over 100 in the exercise of his political rights. Now he lies under a cross not effaced yet by winds and rain, somewhere in the middle of the cemetery. Other crosses have photographs built in stone and the photos preserve the original images, while the stones were eroded and damaged by the hands of time. I could see there how old crosses get slowly into the ground, nothing lasts forever, all earthenware become solid earth in the end.
But what I found even more interesting about graves and crosses is the history of priest’s tombs, customary located in the church’s yard. The crosses are oriented towards sunset, as the altar is oriented towards East. In the yard of the village church there are also different trees. Last autumn, visiting the church, I found one of the most impressive facts about a tomb I ever seen. It was probably an old priest’s tomb. Nearby an apple tree was bending towards the gravestone, as if to touch it or to protect it in its shade. The stone was still upright. What did I see there – the symbol of biblical apple or the discordian apple? None of them. I was just thinking about the importance of man’s constructions and God’s plans. About the architecture of human habits and beliefs, regardless of religion. The way that things are always interconnected, making a whole of this universe…
This is why I think that cemeteries are also a part of architectural sites, spiritual and the material sides altogether.